There is an abundance of land to explore in Scotland, from the highlands to the South West, the popular cities we have come to love and the Orkney Islands. In this blog post, we look at some of the most famous botanist explorers and the impact they had on 'Alba' as we prepare to open 100 Princes Street in Edinburgh which will pay homage to many of the characters below…

1. Thomas Thomson

A naturalist and explorer, Thomson was born in Glasgow and studied Medicine at the University. He worked for the East India Company, before moving to Bengal to work. for the Asiatic Society where he was nearly captured during the British invasion.

He is known for exploring the little known area of the Himalayas observing the plants and geology, the specimens of which he brought back to the UK, introducing a number of new pine trees and primula. 

(1817 - 1878)

2. Thomas Drummond

Drumond was a botanical collector and the younger brother to James Drummond a botanist and early settler in Western Australia. He spent a large amount of time in North America, as an assistant to Sir John Franklin.

Notably, he collected specimens across the US, including Texas, where he spent almost two years collecting plants and birds. The ones of plants were widely distributed across Europe.

(1793 - 1835)

3. Archibald Menzies

Born in Weem, Perthshire, Menzies was a surgeon, botanist and naturalist, He is the first recorded person from Europe to reach the summit of Mauna Loa the Hawaiian volcano. 

In Chile, he collected pine seeds which he brought back to Europe, having grown them on the voyage into five healthy plants. Today this plant is known as the 'Monkey Puzzle' which was at the height of its popularity in the 19th century.

(1754 - 1842)

4. George Forrest

Forrest was a botanist born in Falkirk and became one of the first Western explorers of Yunnan, one of the most diverse provinces in China. in Yunnan, he collected hundreds of rhododendron, shrubs and perennials.

In total it is thought that he brought back over 31,000 plant specimens and he was honoured with a Victoria Model of Honour in 1921 by the Royal Horticultural Society.

5. Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker

Born in Suffolk, England, Hooker was brought up in Glasgow, son to his father who was a Regius Professor of Botany at Glasgow University where he studied medicine.

He founded geographical botany, as well as being Charles Darwin's closest friend. He travelled all over the world including Antarctica and India in search of new plants. In London, he was director of Kew Gardens for 20 years. 

(1817 - 1911)

6. George Sherriff

Born in Larbert, Sherriff was an explorer and plant collector. He collected many new plants from his Himalayan and Tibet exhibitions. He utilised air travel to transport specimens. 

His specimens can be found in the Natural History Museum and he has also been awarded the Victoria Medial of Honour by Royal Horticultural Society. In 1950, he returned home to Scotland, settling in Kirriemuir and grew a garden containing every species of primula.

(1898 - 1967)

7. David Lyall

Lyall was born in Auchenblae, Kincardineshire and studied Medicine in Aberdeen. He joined the Royal Navy where he was an Assistant Surgeon on HMS Terror which voyaged to the Antarctic. They botanised the Kerguelen Island and he became a lifelong friend of Sir Joseph Hooker.

Ranunculus, the white-flowered buttercup, was discovered by Lyall.  

(1817 - 1895)

8. James Drummond

Born in Inverarity in Angus, he was appointed at the young age of 21 to be the curator of Cork Botanic Gardens in Ireland. He was forced to emigrate to Australia in 1828, where he earned a living by selling plant collections to overseas botanists. 

Over a hundred plants have been named after him and he collected a number of species of plants for Kew Gardens.

(1786 - 1863)

9. Francis Masson

Masson was born in Aberdeen and worked as an under-gardener in Kew Gardens. In his role, he was sent abroad to collect plants, bringing back over 500 species of plants.

He travelled on many other voyages, including his trip to North America. He spent 7 years travelling the US collecting plants and seeds, although he only collected 24 new species in comparison.

(1741 - 1805)

10. Robert Fortune

Fortune was a botanist, plant hunter and traveller, best known for introducing tea to Britain. He introduced around 250 new plants from China and Japan to the UK, Australia and the USA. Notably, many varieties of peonies, azaleas and chrysanthemums. 

He brought back two white and red roses but unfortunately, both needed a warmer climate to survive. In later life, he returned to the UK and died in London; his gave can be found in Brompton Cemetery. 

(1812 - 1880)